The King, it seems, would not be pleased.
Finding that Washington consumer protection law is unclear as to whether emotional distress is enough to support a lawsuit, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has asked the state Supreme Court to rule on the issue. The Clark County deputy's lawsuit was previously dismissed after a lower federal court found Washington law did not support such suits.
Deputy Edward Bylsma sued Burger King in U.S. District Court claiming a Burger King employee with a criminal record ruined his late-night snack by spitting - brace yourself - a "slimy, clear and white phlegm glob" into his Whopper.
DNA testing showed employee Gary Herb to be the source of the sputum. Herb was sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to a related assault charge.
According to the deputy's version of events, Bylsma pulled his cruiser into a Vancouver Burger King early on March 24, 2009, to pick up an early morning lunch.
The workers there gave him an "uneasy feeling," which proved correct when he pealed back the Whopper's top bun and found the spit resting atop the meat patty, according to the lawsuit. Bylsma claims to suffer "ongoing emotional trauma from the incident, including vomiting, nausea, food anxiety and sleeplessness."
The deputy's lawsuit, though, was thrown out by a district court judge, who found that Washington consumer protection law did not allow for damages when emotional distress is the sole injury sustained.
Reviewing the lower court decision, the three-judge appellate panel found that the state consumer protection law remains so unsettled the federal courts need a clarification from the Washington Supreme Court before they can address the issue.
"We conclude that the issue presented in this appeal - whether the (Washington Product Liability Act) permits relief for emotional distress caused to a direct purchaser by a contaminated product in the absence of physical injury - 'has not been clearly determined' by the Washington courts," the appellate judges ruled.
"The answer to the unsettled question of law presented by Bylsma's appeal will have far-reaching effects on those involved in the manufacture and sale of products in Washington," the judges continued. "We are reluctant to create uncertainty in this area of the law by answering this question ourselves in the first instance."
The state Supreme Court must now decide if it will answer the appellate court's question. Until then, Byslsma's lawsuit will remain paused in federal court.
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